Training The Right And Wrong Way For Distance Swimming

First up, don't miss episode 12 of our most recent podcast with THE MAN - 6 time Ironman World Champion Dave Scott: https://anchor.fm/swimsmooth



Dave joins us all the way from Boulder for a passionate discussion on training, racing, nutrition and why your mindset is so important.

Search for Swim Smooth on all major podcasting platforms. Don't miss it!




We receive a lot of emails at Swim Smooth but sometimes you get one you just want to share with every swimmer you meet because they will learn something from it. Here's one such example, Nicolai talking about his swimming and how he's improved it:


Hi Swim Smooth,

Im an elite/pro triathlete from Denmark.

I would like to thank you for writing your book. It really has been an eye-opener to me. Especially why I haven't been able to "evolve" my level of swimming, despite putting a lot of hours in the pool over the last few years.


I started swimming a little over 4 years ago and found out that I was pretty fast over 25/50meters (I still am) but couldn't sustain a fast pace over longer distances.

The last two years I have been swimming with an elite swimming club, thinking that this would help me move my level.

Their main focus was on short anaerobic intervals, which I was very good at. And the rest of the time it was just easy/technique. I got a little faster over 25/50/100m and was able to swim under the minute for 100 freestyle. But in my competitions I still suffered a rather big deficit in the swim, despite being able to swim faster than many of those I race against on shorter distances.

My pace over longer distances still sucked (couldn't break the 20 minute barrier for 1500m free, despite being able to swim 57-58 seconds for 100m freestyle)!

Long story but fast-forward to today. I got your book a few months back. And started swimming after your principles. And I'm already seeing great improvement in the pace I'm able to sustain over longer periods of time. With the swim club I swam around 30-35k a week, and now I swim 15-20k. But I'm still getting faster. Really a testament to doing the right training.

I guess it's a textbook example of how not to train, when you're good at sprinting, but lack the endurance to swim fast over longer distances. It took me 4 years and your book to figure out, that if you want to swim fast in an endurance event... you'll have to work on your endurance... 😅

I really look forward to see the effects of this type of training, when the race season comes.

I have a few questions, and I hope you have time to answer them:

1) Currently I'm swimming 5 times every week - would you recommend a different schedule for an elite/pro athlete, than the one in your book? My own thought is to really address my weakness. Which is CSS pace and the pace just under CCS. Therefore, 2x CSS training, 2x Endurance and 1x Technique.

2) Would you recommend your Swim Guru for an elite/pro athlete or am I better of figuring out my own programs according to your book?

Best Regards, Nicolai Wium

PS. Last week, I beat my previous PB’s on 1500m and 800m in the middle of an endurance session 😳 So I was just cruising at CSS+4, and it felt easy! Really shows the effects of aerobic development😄🙏🏻


A big thanks to Nicolai for sharing his story with us. This is a classic example of why it's so important to do the right sort of training for the event in which you are participating.

Traditional swim squads for elite or masters swimming (with a few exceptions) are largely focused on preparing you for sprint events - and are fantastically good at doing that. If you swim in such a squad yourself you'll probably be familiar with the theme of swimming very fast over short distances with lots of recovery between swims. You'll swim all four strokes and plenty of medley sets.

Swim Smooth training is focused on preparing you for longer freestyle events, where the focus is on longer sets at a strong pace with shorter recoveries. That trains different energy systems - the ones you need to perform well over longer swims. And as Nicolai has found, the change is usually transformative. You don't need to be swimming (very) quickly like Nicolai to feel this difference, arguably it's even more important for non-elite swimmers.

We're not saying you should never sprint (far from it) but the mainstay sets you perform during your training week shouldn't be sprinting with lots of recovery. They should be about sustained speed over longer swims with short recoveries.

Get to work now with a local Swim Smooth squad: http://www.swimsmooth.com/coaches/find-a-coach

Our extensive training plans (and interactive training tools) in the Guru: https://www.swimsmooth.guru/subsection/b9/training-plans/

Or check out our book (as Nicolai did) here:  https://shop.swimsmooth.com/collections/swim-smooth-products/products/ss-the-complete-coaching-system-for-swimmers-and-triathletes

(And if you are wondering how we responded to Nicolai's questions: We recommended he stick with his routine of swimming 5x week, possibly exchanging one of his CSS or Endurance sessions over to a Red Mist set - and getting in the open water regularly as soon as he is able. We also thoroughly recommended the Guru for him, it very much designed for all levels of swimmer, from beginner right through to elite. If you like our book you'll LOVE the Guru!).

Swim Smooth!
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